Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Turning for Furniture

5-day turning for furniture with John McCormack, an accomplished spindle turner, woodworker and instructor.


Turning for Furniture



John McCormack joined the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in January 2019 to share his expertise and teaching skills in a variety of woodworking areas. Along with many aspects of woodworking, he enjoys turning and is an accomplished spindle turner and a good faceplate turner for furniture. For John, “the lathe is neat,” allowing the maker to quickly make parts with hand tools. It’s the simple joy in this process, the maker working in tandem with the lathe.

Class Description

In this course, we will explore the uses of the lathe to further the range of technique and embellishment available to the furniture maker. The lathe is neat. It allows a maker to quickly make parts with hand tools. The lathe moves the part: the turner guides the tool and shapes it.

The first project in the course will be a gavel styled mallet, with a turned round head, drilled central mortise and a socket shouldered, wedged through tenoned handle piecing the central head mortise, making the mallet strong, useful and elegant.

The overall strategy is safety, analyzing the risks involved in more complicated lathe work. Machine safety is anticipatory. Our intent is to avoid accidents before they happen.


We are equipped with the turning tools you'll need for the class. However, if you want to bring along your own turning tools and work with them, we encourage you to do so.

Each student will view a variety of techniques and have time to explore a selection of them.

Other techniques to be learned:

  • Making a vise handle.

  • Making feet and finials.

  • Joinery strategies in turned parts:

    • Mortising your blanks before turning.

    • Turning a Table Leg from square to round in a decorative and controlled way (pommeling) to make the part round below the joint.

    • Where the joinery will intersect a round part as you will find in Bed Posts:

      Learn to plug the mortise with softwood and turn through it.

  • Boring concentric holes through spindles on the lathe: use of a Shell Auger.

  • Making the outside of the turning concentric to your bored hole:

    • The making and use of mandrels.

  • Use of paper joints in turning:

    • Doing faceplate turning with paper joints.

    • Doing paper joints to create quarter columns.

      Reeding and fluting quarter columns. Making and using scratch-stocks.

  • Turned and carved rosettes.

  • Threaded turned cylinders.

  • Large faceplate work: safe strategies.

  • Segmented joined turnings.

  • Turning both sides of a faceplate turning, squaring and shaping edges.

    We do require that you bring your own safety gear:

    Face, hearing, and respiratory protection
    We suggest that you bring a face shield, hearing protection and a comfortable dust mask. You can buy a face shield from Woodcraft for around $23. You can also buy face shields at Edensaw or Admiral Ship Supply, both in Port Townsend. Check our FAQ for more details.


Students should know their way around a lathe, be familiar with spindle turning mainly, and be comfortable with the safe use of the lathe, bandsaw, jointer, planer, drill press and tablesaw.

Class Information and Registration

Class runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday in Building #304, Map.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the school.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $775
Materials Charge: $95

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.